Napolitano says suicide plane crash wasn't related to domestic terrorism

By Spencer S. Hsu
Wednesday, March 10, 2010

A suicide plane crash that killed the pilot and an Internal Revenue Service worker at an office building in Austin on Feb. 18 was not a case of domestic terrorism, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said Tuesday in a radio interview.

The pilot, A. Joseph Stack, 53, "had his own personal issues and personal motives" and was carrying out a personal agenda, said Napolitano, interviewed on WAMU-FM's "Diane Rehm Show."

"To our belief, he was a lone wolf. He used a terrorist tactic, but an individual who uses a terrorist tactic doesn't necessarily mean they are part of an organized group attempting an attack on the United States," she said.

Federal authorities ordinarily let the FBI and prosecutors decide whether to charge a domestic suspect with terrorism-related crimes, but because Stack died at the scene, the characterization of the incident is still open to debate.

On the day of the crash, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs initially said the incident did not appear to be related to terrorism, but he later said he meant that it didn't appear to be tied to a foreign-based plot by a group such as al-Qaeda. He declined to rule out domestic terrorism.

In Austin, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Tex.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee who represents the Austin area, told Fox News, "I think when you fly an airplane into a federal building to kill people . . . it sounds like [terror] to me."

In a suicide note posted on his Web site, Stack referred to a "storm raging in my head" and detailed grievances with government, "Mr. Big Brother IRS man," large corporations and others.

Napolitano distinguished Stack from Timothy J. McVeigh -- who was convicted and executed for carrying out the 1995 attack on the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City that killed 168 people -- citing McVeigh's "tactics, organization, motivation and the like."

"When you get to a lone wolf, which is what really the Austin issue was, it's very debatable whether you would put them in the same bucket," Napolitano said.

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